Xiamen aims to step up economic ties with city under Cepa, says mayor Residents of cities in Fujian province will likely be allowed to visit Hong Kong as individual travellers in the second half of this year, Xiamen Mayor Zhang Changping said yesterday. Fujianese residents were interested in travelling to Hong Kong, and the extension of the individual travel scheme would encourage more people to visit the city, he added. The mayor's comments, made on the sidelines of the NPC, came after Gao Siren, director of the central government's liaison office in Hong Kong, said the individual tourism scheme might be expanded to another eight or nine cities outside Guangdong this year. The cities would be in the wealthy eastern provinces of Fujian, Jiangsu and Zhejiang. The officials did not elaborate on which cities in Fujian would see travel restrictions lifted. Meanwhile, Mr Zhang said Xiamen municipal authorities would step up economic co-operation with Hong Kong under the framework of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement. 'We welcome Hong Kong enterprises to invest in service industries in Xiamen, such as logistics, aviation, tourism and financial services,' he added. Companies from outside the mainland could purchase land to build five-star hotels at the price set for industrial land, said Mr Zhang. 'When Xiamen opened up to the rest of the world 20 years ago, the first foreign company landing in our city came from Hong Kong,' he said. Mr Zhang added that he hoped Hong Kong companies would make the most of the city's latest efforts at economic reform. Meanwhile, Fujian Vice-Governor Huang Xiaojing said the province planned to boost economic ties across the Taiwan Strait. 'Our proximity to Taiwan and similarities in culture and language between the province and the island are conducive to closer economic ties,' he said. 'We must implement the 'three links' between the mainland and Taiwan as soon as possible because it is where the interests of the people on both sides of the strait lie,' Mr Huang said. Direct air, sea and telecommunications ties between the mainland and Taiwan are known as the 'three links'. Mr Zhang was adamant that the three links would materialise in the near future in light of strong calls from various sectors on the mainland and the island. Mr Huang said Fujian would also capitalise on its proximity to the Yangtze River Delta.